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January 07, 2006

Better armor could have saved 80% of Marines with lethal upper body injuries

Shocking statistic: According to a recently-released report from the Pentagon, 80% of Marines who suffered fatal upper body wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan could have been saved by adequate body armor. [NYT] Hat tip to Julia.


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This is a very sad story. This is the Marquis de Rimsfeld's marquee, because of his attitude of the war as a state of nature, that just exists, and something that you just go into, with what you have, not what you need. Bad stuff.

Rumsfeld may have not been aware of this or he may have been aware and made an assessment that that there was some odd tradeoff, in his mind.

In any event, it's very sad- sorry to have misspelled his name in the recent comment, in any event. But this story is an example of a larger problem of the way they handle basic issues.

Body armor has raised the number of seriously injured but surviving men over what would otherwise have been just dead ones. Amputees, blind, brain damaged, etc. etc. etc.

Go with that information where it takes you. Beyond the calculus of human suffering let's put it in terms Rumsfeld can understand, cost. On a cost basis this is a no brainer. Dead bodies are much cheaper. Don't think for a second this hasn't crossed plenty of minds in the Pentagon. Maybe late at night, alone, but it's there. had an article, I think yesterday 1/6 or 1/5/06, that outlines an increasing tendency to try to "talk soldiers out of" getting medical treatment for head injuries, and claiming that soldiers with brain injuries are actually pretending or having psychosomatic symptoms.

I guess the "CEO president"'s people have decided to run the military as if they're CEOs of a cost-cutting HMO.

A dead soldier is a terribly expensive occurrence.

We recall tying sand bags (at first the ultra-cheap pink plastic kind that would burst in the sun or at a touch) onto unarmored vehicles with communication wire. This is much more clumsy and difficult than it sounds. One way was to ring each bag abound its center or through punctured holes and then tie the wire to anything, often the mirrors. Straightforward Keystone Kops results: stop too soon with bad ties and you have a low-tech, nonlethal catapult! As far as body armor, we were pogues and made do with the old fashioned vest, but there were a lot of special orderings of privately made stuff (the effective thermal underwear "Under Armor" [which is not armor] must have more than trebled its business), and a lot of talk about their relative effectiveness.

More body armor means more weight to lug around, and possible constriction of motion. It's not obvious that additional armor would reduce casualties - in the limit of perfect protection the soldier would be a very slow moving target, barely able to perform the mission. It's a different issue than Hummer armor - body armor has to be physically carried, and more armor weight reduces the ability to carry other stuff, as well as tiring the wearer out faster.

I have no sympathy for the inexcusable incompetence of the SecDef and President, but this particular issue is subtle, and I don't think a definitive answer can be had short of extensive research, including field trials. Dead from too little armor is just as dead as dead from being unable to get out of the way of incoming fire.

Is it now possible for the families of dead Marines to sue the Defense Department? I hope so.


We're talking about armor that was requested, but not provided. If the Pentagon thought that the armor was impairing the soldiers, they wouldn't allow the soldiers to wear it.

Kei & Yuri--

Was this in the current Gulf War?

you have wonderful taste in tunes

Rapier - that's a pretty dark thought - to think they looked at soldiers, not as ends in themselves, but as mere expendable costs. I hope it's not true. Sometimes it seems that way.

I guess, as things are going now, it would be surprising news if the news story was that a large number of US lives were saved thanks to some form of brilliant action by the current US administration.

Speaking of armor the Humvee was touted as a replacement for the jeep, not the tank or the armored car or the APC.

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